Blur – The alternative take

What do you need to know about them?

Blur are (or were) a British pop / rock band consisting of four band members; Damon Albarn (mainly vocals and keyboards), Graham Coxon (Guitar), Alex James (Bass), and Dave Rowntree (Drums). They appeared in 1991, before stopping around 2003 after Damon and Graham had a falling out. They made friends again and re-appeared for some emotional gigs in 2009, including a triumphant headline slot at Glastonbury, and a Hyde park gig recorded and later released . They won the Brit award for “outstanding contribution to music” at the 2012 Brits. If you are British I don’t see how you cannot know who they are. They are pretty much a British institution, most people have a soft spot for them. If you are American, you may know them, might know them for “Song 2”, or won’t have a clue.

Where did I first become acquainted?

Quite probably from fairly early on. In the summer of 1993 I was working in the warehouse of a crappy retail chain. A least it afforded me the opportunity to have the radio on all day, at a time when I was really getting into music again. I loved “For Tomorrow” and was excited about the follow up singles. This being a time when single releases could still be a little exciting. That sounds a bit daft these days. Anyhoo, I got the album “Modern life is rubbish” and never looked back.

Parklife was an even better follow up and took them on to huge success in the UK. In 1995 when they had the singles war with Oasis for number one “Country house” Vs “Roll with it”. I bought both editions of the Blur single. And the Oasis single. Sadly both these efforts were pretty weak for both bands at the time. Still it was fun at the time.

The single Beetlebum actually got me into the band Pavement which in turn gave me one of my favourite albums of all time, Pavement’s “Brighten the corners”.

What to buy:

Depends what mood I’m in. I have everything including the album of remixes, and a live bootleg. However this is my post, so I’m choosing:

  • Blur – The one influenced by American bands after getting a bit fed up of Britpop. Has song 2 (everyones heard of that).
  • Parklife – The 2nd album, the big britpop one, chic full of good tracks and singles.
  • Modern life is rubbish – The second album containing lots of pop, but a bit less melodic than Parklife. Still a fab album, one that reminds me a lot of College.
  • 13 – The broken hearted Damon one, a bit more “art rock” whatever that means, more Graham guitar brilliance, more introspective lyrics.

Some key tracks to listen to:

There is a really good singles compilation (yep I have that too, even though I already have all the tracks), so that is a good place to start. With that in mind, heres some alternative good tracks which might not have been singles (or are just favourites of mine).

  • Sing
  • Theres no other way
  • For Tomorrow (full version not single edit)
  • Tracey Jacks
  • This is a low
  • He thought of cars
  • Yuko and Hiro
  • Beetlebum
  • On your own
  • Moving on
  • coffee and tv
  • battle
  • trimm trabb
  • on the way to the club
  • Black book (b-side to the music is my radar single, really ought to have been on an album)
Blah, blah, so many good tracks. Listen to some tracks here. Check out the video to “The Univeral” below:

Anything to avoid?

The first album “Leisure” is a bit patchy but does have a few very good tracks. “The Great Escape” is a bit overcooked but still decent, so really it should not be in this section.

Anything else?

They have their own website here and a Facebook page if you want to look that up. There is also fabulous film “No distance left to run” which tells the story of Blur and is available in an edition containing one of the hyde park gigs. There is also an old tour film from the Modern life is rubbish era called “Star shaped” (Yep, I have that as well).

Damon Albarn has had a busy music career. You can check out more of his work in the following:

  • Gorillaz
  • The Good, the bad, and the Queen
  • Mali Music
  • Rocket Juice and the moon
  • Dr Dee
Graham also has had a solo career releasing eight albums. Check out:
  • Happiness in magazines
  • The Spinning top
  • A & E
Plenty of books are available but I would recommend “Blur 3862 days, the story of blur” by Stuart Maconie, and band member Alex James book “A bit of Blur“. A large box set “21” containing all the albums (remastered) and plenty of unreleased tracks, is to be released on July 31st 2012 (pictured at the top of the post).

Enjoy!

Lexicon word of the day: eristic. 

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Record shop day and Amoeba records


Yesterday was Record store day, a day to support independent music stores, for the music fan anyway. I suspect most people don’t care too much. That might be a shame considering how many music stores are disappearing in favour of a few online stores. I’m well aware of downloads being the current and mostly future of music (for most people anyway), but I love the physical aspect of vinyl or CDs. Plus the quality. Online downloadable music is not fully up to scratch yet. I did a post about that once. Also as much fun as it can be looking online for music, and it is, I really do enjoy flicking through the racks of a music store. I love the posters, artwork, the smell and feel of a store.

In support of record store day, many artists have been releasing limited edition singles, EPs, or even albums. These are strictly limited number pressings available only through participating independent stores. This year there were a lot of releases, and to some extent it looked like there was a bunch of artists jumping on the bandwagon, just so they will have something out on the day. I might be being cynical, but that is the way it seems. Still there is plenty of cool stuff in there, including a big release by the Flaming Lips (and friends), singles by Jack White, and a good single by Best Coast. However that barely even gives a flavour. A full list of releases yesterday can be viewed at the link at the top of this post.

Having a small child, I’m not really in a position this year to get in line with the music geeks and queue up, making sure I could get a record or two. I kind of like the look of the Flaming Lips release but I figured I was unlikely to get to somewhere before it sold out. That said, whilst I wasn’t desperate to get hold of anything, I figured a trip to Amoeba in Hollywood, was in order (a sort of wedding anniversary gift from my lovely wife). A chance to check out the vibes, and see how different from a normal day it is.

We usually head to Amoeba for when it opens, to get decent parking, but as anyone who has lived around LA can tell you, also to avoid some of the worst traffic. When we arrived, there was an enormous queue of people outside, a couple of blocks long. It was soon revealed as a line for those wanting to try to buy releases for record store day. Otherwise you could head straight in. Good luck to them I say, as previously mentioned, I was not in a position to queue in the hot sun, and I figured I was so far back I would not get what I wanted anyway. So a little disappointed that I might not be able to get the Flaming Lips release, I went for plan B. I was at Amoeba, might as well just browse the store and pick up a few things.

So that I did. It was pretty busy (which is good really, even if not the best for browsing), And I didn’t spend a lot, but I picked up the following:

  • Wilco – “Kicking Television – Live in Chicago” (Wilco are a really good band live, and I have never heard this).
  • Pavement – “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” (deluxe edition)
  • Graham Coxon – “Love travels at illegal speeds” (I already had this, but it came from the time when there was stupid copy protection on the disk and I could not even import it into iTunes, I always wanted to pick it up again with a “clean” disk).
  • Pete Townsend – “Lifehouse elements”
  • The Verve – “Forth” (I thought this might be a bit average, but it was cheap so worth a go).

See, I’m a music fan who has a lot of albums, and a lot that I like. Sure there is always something to discover, but sometimes my music browsing is often to pick up a few things round the edges that I haven’t got yet. Actually I have a list of some things I want to pick up. Many were not there today, but that is ok. I got others, I supported an independent store a little. In terms of record store day releases it was a washout for me, but maybe next year if there is something I want, I will get up nice and early. Amoeba is always good for a look, for something new, or for something to add to the collection.

I think Amoeba had a successful day. You can read their store blog about it here.

Lexicon word of the day: gallimaufry.